Sexual harassment among adolescents of different sexual orientations and gender identities

Kimberly J Mitchell, Michele L Ybarra, Josephine D Korchmaros
Child Abuse & Neglect 2014, 38 (2): 280-95
This article examines (a) variation in rates of sexual harassment across mode (e.g., in-person, online) and type of harassment, (b) the impact of sexual harassment (i.e., distressing vs. non-distressing), and (c) how sexual harassment is similarly and differently experienced across sexual orientation and gender identity groups. Data were collected as part of the Teen Health and Technology online survey of 5,907 13 to 18 year-old Internet users in the United States. Past year sexual harassment was reported by 23-72% of youth, depending upon sexual orientation, with the highest rates reported by lesbian/queer girls (72%), bisexual girls (66%), and gay/queer boys (66%). When examined by gender identity, transgender youth reported the highest rates of sexual harassment - 81%. Overall, the most common modes for sexual harassment were in-person followed by online. Distress in the form of interference with school, family, and/or friends; creating a hostile environment; or being very/extremely upset was reported by about half of the sexually harassed bisexual girls and lesbian/queer girls, 65% of the gender non-conforming/other gender youth, and 63% of the transgender youth. Youth with high social support and self-esteem were less likely to report sexual harassment. Findings point to the great importance of sexual harassment prevention for all adolescents, with particular emphasis on the unique needs and experiences of youth of different sexual orientations and gender identities. Socio-emotional programs that emphasize self-esteem building could be particularly beneficial for reducing the likelihood of victimization and lessen the impact when it occurs.

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